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When the Oculus Rift is released for consumers in the first few months of 2016, a generation will pull on its headsets and not only manipulate a character, but embody them. The system, which immerses people inside virtual reality worlds through a pair of goggles, is among the most advanced pieces of virtual reality (VR) technology.
The gaming expectations are high for punters who can’t wait to adopt a virtual alter ego, so naturally the hype around the launch is building. But will the hype match the reality? The concept of VR – having a true existence in an alternative world – has existed for more than a century; but we’re only just beginning to develop the sophistication required to truly believe we’ve gone elsewhere.
VR gaming developers are playing a much stronger game now, though. Oculus Rift was once a humble Kickstarter project, but Facebook bought it for $2 billion in 2014, making it so much more than a gimicky pair of 3D goggles and some impressive software. In fact, Facebook has grand plans. Mike Schroepfer told Business Insider it planned to ‘effectively build a teleporter’ by 2025. By this he means the technology will be so impressive that it will have you truly believing you’re no longer playing games in your living room.
Facebook’s not the only company playing in this virtual space. HCT will soon launch its Vive VR, Sony’s toying with Playstation VR and Google Cardboard will also ship early in 2016. According to Deakin University’s VR expert, Dr Ben Horan, owning VR technology will soon be commonplace. ‘With headsets such as the Oculus Rift, we’re able to take virtual reality technology into people’s homes,’ he says, and it heralds the next wave of ‘highly immersive’ gaming.
But with this next level realism, will this kind of gaming breed dangerous levels of addiction? Dr Horan says that like many technologies, virtual reality could become the next tool that we get hooked on. ‘We need to be conscious that it is a potential problem and look at putting measures in place, such as limiting the amount of exposure someone could have with a virtual reality headset,’ he suggests. But he admits that does become difficult as they slip into the public’s hands because the time spent in virtual worlds is at the discretion of the user.
<span”>He insists that it’ll be a while before we’re interacting with other characters in virtual worlds at a level that feels completely authentic. ‘The limitation is going to be the artificial intelligence behind the virtual person. To have emotions and interact like a human – we’re not really there yet,’ he says.
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